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Archive for the ‘Human Interest’ Category

An Existential Dilemma

Posted by biggusrickus on May 13, 2010

I created this little (updated) blog in the mold of the late, great Fire Joe Morgan, because I thought college football writing deserved to be mocked and they were too baseball-centric. So here’s the problem. I read a thing today that deserves the FJM treatment, but it’s about baseball, which is not my thing. So herein is the breaking point from my stated mission of “mocking bad college football writing” to more general sports journalism criticism. But really, when you write a shitpile like this, what else am I to do? I could not post to a snarky blog about it you say? Well I say, we gonna do the do. Brace yourself for a trip back to antiquity when Poseidon threw Oddyseus off course for beaning Hector and Zeus Prometheus gave man fire so they could play night games.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Baseball

No, this is not by Judy Blume but by some guy named Matthew Futterman. So, the headline’s the set, and here’s spike of a subhead:

Braden’s Perfect Game Bolsters Argument of the Believers

You wanna write about sports in the Wall Street Journal? Use some hindsight to make up shit about baseball being influenced by a hand of god or some such nonsense. 

In the debate over whether there are baseball Gods, score one for the believers.

Is there debate about this? Why the fuck is there debate? There are obviously a pantheon of baseball Gods who play with their mortal subjects as they see fit. Sometimes they make middling starters throw perfect games. Sometimes they make Dwight Gooden snort so much coke his nose falls off, but have no doubt that they are there, all around us at all times. Sometimes, when you’re pitching a no-hitter on acid, you can see them, and they are glorious.

On Sunday, an unheralded Oakland A’s pitcher named Dallas Braden threw Major League Baseball’s 19th perfect game. The accomplishment was extraordinary by any standard, but even more so for a lightly heralded pitcher who wasn’t chosen until the 24th round of the 2004 amateur draft. But when you consider the circumstances, it’s almost otherworldly.

Well, it was the 19th time it has ever happened, so it goes without saying that it was extraordinary. And while most of the guys who have done it were good to great pitchers, there’s also this guy, this guy, and this guy (who did it in a fucking World Series, crazily enough). So that’s 4 out of 19 from average or slightly below average major league pitchers. So it is not “even more extraordinary” that an “unheralded guy” did it. It is the exact same amount of extra ordinary-ness. And it is certainly not fucking otherworldly, no matter how much human interest fluff you try to tie to it. And also because there are no such things as baseball gods.

Late last month, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, one of the best but most-controversial players in the game, disrepected Mr. Braden by trotting across his pitching mound and then belittled him after the Oakland pitcher had the audacity to complain about the breach of etiquette. After the game, Mr. Rodriguez described the confrontation as “pretty funny” and Mr. Braden as “a guy that has a handful of wins in his career.”

Okay, maybe Cont-Rod (short for Controversy Rodriguez) is a kind of weird dick. I’m undecided on the whole mound controversy. It seems a little silly for a pitcher to get all pissy about it, but maybe it’s part of the dumb unwritten code of baseball. Whatever. This incident, however, has nothing to do with gods influencing baseball outcomes, because, as previously stated, that is made-up nonsense.

Flash forward to Mother’s Day, when Mr. Braden, who lost his own mother to melanoma while he was in high school, took the mound against Tampa Bay, the team with the best record in the American League, and without overpowering stuff (he had a mere six strikeouts) managed to retire all 27 batters he faced.

Whoa, let’s not just flash forward to Mother’s Day. At the conclusion of the start against New York where he was supposedly disrespected by A-Rod, thus getting the gods on his side because they hate A-Rod, he was 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA. His next two starts, both losses, saw him post a combined line of 11 IP, 18 Hits, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. Where were your gods then Mr. Futterman/Braden?

As for the mom’s death/doing something so amazing on Mother’s Day angle, it’s kind of cute that such a thing happened. It is not a sign of divine intervention. I also like to think that somewhere, someone whose mom died when he was a teenager, went 0-5 with 4 Ks on Mother’s Day. After the game he was called into the manager’s office and informed he was being sent down to AAA to work on his mechanics, and he got home to find his wife had moved out and, like, killed his dog because he barked at squirrels, and it drove her crazy. If someone would write  a story about how shitty that guy’s day was I might not be so annoyed with the Mother’s Day-Braden angle.

Granted, it wasn’t Steve Bartman running over a billy goat on Lake Shore Drive before the Chicago Cubs clinch their first World Series win since 1908,

Still with the Steve Bartman references people? Jesus, let it go. Also, does this non-event mean that the gods, in allowing Bartman to arrive at the game, were punishing the Cubs for, like, hubris or something?

but it does add heft to an old theological question that’s been kicked around over many a pint of grog: Is there a God that watches over baseball?

Now we’re getting monotheistic in our baseball theology? The answer to the question is no, there is not a God watching over baseball. That is juvenile nonsense, and why the fuck are we drinking grog?

Whatever the case, there have been many instances in baseball’s Eden-like ballpark cathedrals where things happen that seem to defy all terrestrial explanations. Here are a few such moments:

“Eden-like.” Paradise with everything provided by God does not include $7 hot dogs.

And here are some “things (that) happen that seem to defy all terrestrial explanations:”

Mike Piazza’s home run.

Mike Piazza hit a homerun in the eighth to beat the Braves in the Mets’ first game back at Shea after 9/11. This is truly amazing because Piazza only hit 35 other home runs that year, and retired with a measly 427 for his career. Obviously, gods or a God were involved.

2004 American League Championship Series, Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Okay, I’ll include his reasoning for this one, because it is fucking crazy.

In a series where the Yankees blew a commanding 3-0 lead to lose four straight, it’s easy to overlook the divine characteristics of Tony Clark’s ground-rule double in the ninth inning of Game 5.

But in the top of the ninth, Mr. Clark of the Yankees screeched a line drive into right field with two outs and teammate Ruben Sierra on first. The ball took a hop off the Fenway Park ground and bounced into the right-field stands.

Had the ball stayed in play, Mr. Sierra surely would have scored the Yankees’ fifth run, giving Yankees closer Mariano Rivera a chance to close out the series. Instead, Mr. Sierra was stranded at third when Miguel Cairo popped out in foul territory. The long-suffering Red Sox won the game 5-4 in 14 innings—and we don’t have to remind Yankees fans what happened next.

Think about all the other events that had to come together for the Red Sox to come back and win that series. Even just in that game. They had to shut out an incredibly good Yankees lineup for five more innings. They had just had to plate two in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game, which included a second straight blown save by Rivera (though in fairness, blaming him for giving up a sac fly in a one-run game when he comes in with runners on the corners is unfair). Which brings me to: in the previous fucking game, they’d had to score a run off Mariano Rivera to tie the game that they won in 12 innings. What was I talking about again? Oh, a God or some number of gods in conjunction causing a ball to bounce over a fence. Think about how crazy that is. I SAID THINK ABOUT IT!

The Home Run King Gets No World Series Ring

Bonds struck out one inning and the Giants eventually blew a lead and lost 6-5 in game 6 of the ’02 World Series. They went on to lose game seven. Two words merged to form one: otherworldly.

Update: I checked the box score for the game. You know what else Bonds did? He went 1-2 with 2 BB (one intentional because nobody sane pitched to Bonds unless the bases were empty at that point in his career) and solo HR. He also made an error that led to an unearned run, so, I don’t know, gods teasing him and making him fail? Probably.

Hank Greenberg against the Master Race

Oh yeah, some more crazy:

Before Jessie Owens faced down Adolf Hitler, Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers took their shot.

See, Hank Greenberg’s a Jew, in case his stereotypical Jewish name didn’t clue you in. Hitler: not so much a fan of Jews. So, fine. That a Jew did something good at a time when Hitler was running Germany is neat, but in what fucking way is that analogous to winning a fucking gold medal in the German capital, embarrassing Hitler and all that? Explain yourself!

In 1935, as Hitler was rising to power in Europe, a sturdy Jewish first baseman was belting 36 home runs and knocking in 170 on his way to his first MVP award.

Had he played for a hapless franchise, Mr. Greenberg’s exploits might not have gained the spotlight. But fate placed him on a team with the likes of Charlie Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane and Schoolboy Rowe that won that year’s World Series, turning Mr. Greenberg into a folk hero.

And Hitler watched all of this while gnashing his teeth because Hitler was way into baseball. (Was Hitler into baseball? Anyone?) Greenberg went on to win another one in 1940, but this troubled Hitler less as he was overrunning Europe and really didn’t get to the follow the season very much at all.

Oh, that’s how it ended. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty convinced now that gods are intervening in baseball games, and it’s time we hunted them down and put a stop to it. What do we want?! Free will!! When do we want it?! Now, but how do you kill a god?! Hmm.

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Keep Away From My College Football Jemele!

Posted by biggusrickus on October 2, 2008

Jemele Hill has a question: Where all the white running backs at? Is it racism? Is it genetics? Is it a plot by the KKK to get white people riled up about something and bring about the race war predicted by The Beatles’ White Album? Jemele Hill reports. You decide.

When Michigan played Notre Dame, a freshman pounded the Irish for 131 yards rushing, slashing and slithering around defenders like an eel.

Ah, the old “slash like an eel” descriptor. How cliché.

It was some coming-out party. But other than his ability, one thing really stuck out about this Wolverines tailback.

He’s a complete fucking asshole.

He’s white.

Same difference. WOOO! Black power!

Michigan hasn’t had a white player start at tailback since Rob Lytle in 1976, which also was the last time a white tailback led the Maize and Blue in rushing.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, the University of Michigan hates white people.

If Sam McGuffie’s breakout game against the Irish is any indication, maybe he’ll be the one to break new ground for white tailbacks, who have become as rare a sight as Halley’s comet.

It’s about time white folks caught a break. You only see white guys at tailback once every 76 years, and that needs to change. You’re representing us all Sam. Don’t fuck it up.

“I really don’t have too much to say about that,” said McGuffie, who ran for 1,711 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, and gained YouTube fame for hurdling a defender. “If you can play the position, you can play the position.”

Insightful. Thank God this was included.

Many of us watch sports not caring if the men on the field are purple or magenta, as long as they produce.

If I saw someone purple on the field I think I’d care, as it would mean either that aliens have infiltrated our Universities or I need to stop dropping acid. Either way, it would be meaningful.

But watch sports long enough and you inevitably notice trends and rarities. One of them is that white tailbacks at the college and professional level have become virtually nonexistent.

I really don’t notice it much or care at all. At most it garners a “Huh, a white guy” from me. I will admit to noticing white cornerbacks though, and if your team has one it usually means your secondary sucks.

In 2007, just 13 of the top 100 rushers in the Football Bowl Subdivision were white. The SEC and Pac-10 each have just one white starting tailback in their respective leagues, Vanderbilt’s Jared Hawkins and Stanford’s Toby Gerhart.

13% doesn’t seem all that out of whack. It might even be a little higher than say, top 100 receivers or top 100 in interceptions or something. More importantly, who gives a shit?

And McGuffie is the Big Ten’s lone starting white tailback.

When are the whites going to wake up and smell the racism?

In the NFL, white tailbacks are even scarcer.

You don’t say.

Not one white player starts at tailback on any of the NFL’s 32 teams. The last time a white tailback was taken in the first round of the NFL draft was 1974, when the Los Angeles Rams selected Penn State’s John Cappelletti with the 11th overall pick.

Huh, and that sort of coincides with the college game really becoming integrated. Perhaps there’s some connection there.

With such a deeply entrenched trend, you wonder if ESPN college football analyst Craig James might be the last white player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the NFL or if former Washington Redskins legend John Riggins will be the last white feature back to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I just want to remind everyone that James is an asshole who played for the cheatingest program in NCAA history. That has nothing to do with anything else in this post, but I really hate Craig James. Some white dude will someday play tailback in the NFL and maybe even make it to the Hall of Fame. That Ian Johnson guy at Boise looks like he might be good enough to at least get a starting gig in the NFL. It won’t be common or anything, because black people tend to be better atheletes than white people, but I don’t know why you’d rule it out entirely. However, the main reason I don’t wonder if there will ever be a white running back who accomplishes anything in the NFL is because I don’t give a fuck.

“Fans write me all the time calling me ‘The Great White Hope,'” said James, who ran for 1,227 yards with the New England Patriots during the 1985 season.

Seriously? Fans write him all the time and call him “The (fucking) Great White Hope?” Because of that one good year he had 23 God damn years ago? That is some self-aggrandizing bullshit. I’m almost in awe of it.

“One of these days, someone will come along.”

Craig James molests goats.

There’s a lot of junk about nature vs. nurture arguments. My favorite quote is this:

“I don’t ever want to put a spin on it and say it’s profiling,” said Floyd Keith, the executive director of the Black Coaches Association. “I think it has a lot to do with the quality of player.”

I find it ironic that the president of a group formed to combat profiling against one race refuses to accept that premise going the other way. I happen to agree with him about the quality of player being the determining factor though.

But what does someone who actually studies shit have to say about the rarity of white running backs?
“Once the population designations were set,” Entine said, “there are real differences in the gene frequencies in the east and west African population, which is quite different from populations around the world.”

Entine points out athletes with East or North African ancestry and also those from Mexico and South America are likely to dominate endurance activities because they have evolved in highland terrains whose populations tend to have a larger lung capacity and lean physiques.

“It’s geography and ancestry,” Entine said. “It’s not race.”

Geography and ancestry lead to racial differences, so it’s kind of race. But that’s quibbling. In summation, white people tend to be slower than and not jump as high as black people. Both of those things are important in playing the position of running back. Fewer whites play running back at the highest levels of football. Duh.

Posted in Human Interest | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Choking on Dying Mediums

Posted by biggusrickus on July 1, 2008

Let’s just dive right into this.

NCAA Managing Director of Football and Baseball Dennis Poppe confirmed for me Monday what I’ve been wondering about the proliferation of bowl games.

When it will end? What’s the oversaturation point? How many more additional football games we can expect, because football is an awesome sport and you’d like to watch more games? My guess: What does proliferation mean?

When it comes to new bowls, it’s promoter beware.

What a let down. This isn’t even jokey or anything. It’s kind of obvious and uninteresting, but that’s to be expected. It’s Dodd after all.

The NCAA in April approved two more bowl games, the Congressional Bowl in Washington D.C. and the St. Petersburg  Bowl in — guess where? — St. Petersburg, Fla.. That brings the total to 34 bowls. Do the quick math and that means 68 bowl slots. There were only 71 bowl-eligible teams last season.

Doing some more quick math (Subtraction this time. Thank God Dodd did that nasty ole multiplication for me.), that still leaves three teams that are technically deserving of a bowl unable to go.

Poppe, here for the College World Series, calls that a safe “margin of error.” Three teams? (Actually, the number  varies from year to year but it’s still close. In 2006, there were 73 bowl-eligible teams.)

I guess there’s a slim possibility that only 67 teams could qualify in some year, but with the loosening of the I-AA rule it seems very unlikely. Also, does 3-5 extra teams seem like a safe “margin of error” to all of you readers? Yes? Cool. I love you, man.

The pressure is not on the NCAA, which does little more than certify new bowls, but on the bowls themselves. If there aren’t enough bowl eligible teams, there simply won’t be bowls.

That hardly seems all that pressurized for anyone. 71 and 73 have qualified in the first two years of the relaxed requirements. Seems like a pretty good bet that the 68 slots will be filled.

“The only option right now is that the bowl wouldn’t have a game,” said Poppe, a former lineman for Missouri’s 1970 Orange Bowl team. “That’s what it always has been (but) we reaffirmed that. The association’s position is that granting a license doesn’t necessarily guarantee a game.”

Works for me. What about you, Dennis?

If there was a possible shortage, why did the NCAA certify the two new bowls? Legally, it doesn’t have much choice.  It might be surprising to know that the NCAA has little to do with the postseason. It certifies bowls, assigns officials and sets rules. Other than that, cities, promoters, schools and conferences stage the games.

Show of hands: How many college football fans, i.e. the people who might read a Dodd column, did not know that the NCAA has little to do with the college football postseason? Stop being a smartass, Magillicutty. Seriously, the bowl system is subject to endless debate every fucking football season. I daresay that anyone who does not know this is illiterate or suffers from that short-term memory thing in “Memento.”

If there is a glut of games, the public loves it. Average attendance at the 32 bowl games in 2007-08 was the highest in eight years. That would suggest that although seven bowl eligible teams didn’t make the postseason last year, there are fans out there willing to watch the likes of Troy, Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe. (The other four bowl eligible teams that did it get invites were South Carolina, Northwestern, Iowa and Louisville.)

If the public is going to the games and watching them on TV can you say there is a glut? These people willing to watch the likes of Troy and Ohio are known as “college football fans”. They also comprise your readership, Dennis. I will watch Division III playoff games. I have watched high school games on television. There is not enough football to sate my appetite, let alone glut it. I’ve probably said a bit too much about myself there.

The next hurdle for bowl executives could be the dreaded Academic Progress Rate. Beginning in 2009, teams that have posted a sub-900 APR three consecutive season could be banned from postseason competition.

I guess this could cause a problem and lead to a reduction in bowl games. 😦

“We are in an area where the margin is pretty thin,” Poppe said. “I still think we should have enough teams … The theory is to provide as much opportunity as possible.”

I like that theory. Oh, that’s the end of the bowl thing? Okay, but what do you think about these newspaper layoffs?

 You might have noticed that the newspaper industry is in shambles.

Yep, circulation down, ad revenues down, layoffs all over the place. The fucking New York fucking Times is even having to lay people off. It’s a revolutionary time in information getting.

This is not gloating. While we Internet hacks seem to be the lucky ones, our hearts go out to colleagues who are being downsized because of corporate mismanagement.

Sure, nobody likes to see someone lose their job. At least not if they’re doing it reasonably well. You, I wouldn’t mind seeing fired.

Two good friends left their jobs recently. Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram took a buyout after more than three decades in the business. The Star-Telegram has decided to do away with its national college football beat as part of its downsizing.  Also, Howard Richman was let go at the Kansas City Star after a quarter century with the paper. He was covering Kansas State, nailing every breaking story on the beat.

I’m not really familiar with either of these gentlemen, but I’ll assume Dodd is right that they were good. I’m feeling generous.

These guys are two examples of how the reader is losing. Newspapers still haven’t figured out to make their product  work in a changing media environment.

You’d think they’d have an idea by now.

Sure, the Internet is a threat but you would have thought by now that someone would have figured how to reconfigure newspapers.

What does this mean? Reconfiguring them into a web-based medium that still maintains quality control to some degree? Or like, just reconfiguring physical newspapers? Which makes no sense to anyone with a thinking brain. Anyway, if it’s the first, then newspapers have been slow on the uptake.

The major problem is papers being run by corporations instead of journalists. This guy Zell who owns Tribune Co. literally scares me.

This guy does seem pretty frightening. Downright Pennywisian. You don’t maybe think that the problem with newspapers is that their revenues are drying up while circulation plummets rather than the big, bad, corporate bogeymen? Okay, it’s your delusion.

It used to be about putting out a good product. Now it’s more about profit margin.

These two things are apparently mutually exclusive.

This bastardization of a vocation causes good people like Wendell and Howard to leave the profession. Courage, guys. We’re thinking about you.

I’m sure they’re reasonably decent dudes, but really they weren’t screwed over. They’re in a dying medium. This is what happens when technology renders something obsolete. Must…not…use…buggy whip…clich…é.

Posted in Human Interest, Nonsense | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Ware the Human Interest Piece

Posted by biggusrickus on February 25, 2008

I thought I’d do a little critiquing of college football writing a la Fire Joe Morgan…only less basebally and probably not as funny. I’m not saying there’s no place for human interest stories in sports, but they are often blown way the fuck out of proportion. Football, for example, does not heal a community after a shooting on campus. Nor does it repair a nearly destroyed city. This is a little old, but Pat Forde disagrees with me…sort of. Hit me Pat.

If you want to know why the Allstate BCS National Championship Game is important beyond football in this regrouping city, consider:

Tuesday morning might be the first time since August 2005 that the New Orleans Times-Picayune publishes a front page that doesn’t contain the words “Hurricane Katrina.”

I don’t habitually read the Times-Picayune, but this seems unlikely. But let us assume that every paper for the last two and a half years has mentioned the hurricane on the front page. Am I to believe that there will be no mention of it after the first incredibly huge sporting event since Katrina has taken place? Don’t lie to me Pat. Not you.

“It’s a very, very worthy diversion,” said David Meeks, city editor of the Times-Picayune.

I know nothing takes my mind off of the house and/or family members I lost in a natural disaster like a college football game.

There was some bullshit about sporting events reminding people that celebrations can happen again and the like. Then:

“It seems like nothing ever gets completely finished,” Meeks said. “When the Superdome reopened, it was a symbol that something finally got finished.”

Take heart New Orleanians, your house may still have no roof, but the Superdome is ready to go!

There are some truly sad descriptions of the still unrepaired areas in the city. Then:

“[New Orleanians] just want people to understand what they’re going through,” Meeks said. “The places where the game is being played and the hotels and restaurants are, they’re fine. It’s the neighborhoods where people live that the fight and the struggle continues.”

This is why the whole first part of the god damned story is in poor taste. If I’m a person living in these areas or hoping to move back I might, you know, resent that the stadium and tourist areas were rebuilt before my fucking house. Maybe seeing a bunch of middle class, upper middle class, and rich people visit my city doesn’t make me feel any better about my situation. Maybe I think you should have spent some money fixing my house before you tried to open up the city for tourists. Nah, I’d probably be pretty stoked that some out of towners were drinking on Bourbon Street and watching a football game. Maybe they could even share some insights on how to improve my situation.

The rest goes into some harrowing stories. There’s a little navel gazing, but nothing too egregious. Pat, why did you open the story like that? Jackass.

Posted in Human Interest | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »